EU to promote cheap and dirty nuclear loans

Press release - 5 November, 2002

Greenpeace today called on EU Commissioners to say no to cheap and dirty nuclear loans. The demand comes in response to the European Commission proposal to extend the Euratom loan facility from € 4 billion to € 6 billion, which is expected to be discussed at their meeting to be held in Brussels tomorrow.

The original purpose of Euratom Loans was to promote investment in nuclear power. Now the stated purpose of the extension of Euratom Loans (1) is supposedly for safety measures at nuclear power plants. However, money already allocated on this basis to Eastern Europe is being used to expand the nuclear industry there instead (2).

"Euratom is a relic of the past and has no place in a 21st century-sustainable Europe.

Its mandate is to promote nuclear power and to provide support for the nuclear industry. Clearly an increase in the loan ceiling would be a scandal. European taxpayers will be asked to invest more in risky and uneconomic nuclear projects instead of clean, renewable energy sources for Europe," said Arjette Stevens from Greenpeace International. "The Commission should abandon its plans to extend the Euratom Loan facility," she added.

Greenpeace also warned that a new package of proposed nuclear directives, expected to be discussed by the Commission this week, were likely to be a thinly-veiled "survival package" for the nuclear industry. To date, few details of the package have been made public. However, Greenpeace believes these proposals, promoted by pro-nuclear Commissioner Loyola de Palacio as "safety measures", are in reality designed to support a struggling nuclear industry by expanding the remit and competence of Euratom. The key test for these directives will be whether they result in the accelerated closure of nuclear reactors by exposing the nuclear industry to more stringent safety standards and the removal of hidden subsidies.

"The Commission must come clean. Instead of planning for the revival of a dying industry it should engage its considerable resources to research, develop and promote a 100% clean renewable energy future for an enlarged EU," concluded Stevens.

Notes: (1) Euratom loansIn March 1977 the Council of the European Communities agreed on "empowering the Commission to issue Euratom loans for the purpose of contributing to the financing of nuclear power stations". Initially, this was restricted to nuclear facilities within the Union with an initial credit ceiling of 500 million ECU (European Currency Units). As funds were used the ceiling was raised and currently stands at € 4 000 million. Since 1987 no Euratom loan has been issued to any project inside the EU due to a lack of demand for new nuclear construction. The European Union decided in 1994 to widen the scope of Euratom to non-member states in Eastern Europe "in order to contribute to the financing required for improving the degree of safety and efficiency of nuclear power stations". But it required that most of the capital goods and services be provided by an EU company, i.e. a subsidy to the EU nuclear industry.(2) Cernavoda 2 The only new loan under active consideration is for completing construction of a new reactor in Romania, Cernavoda 2. The Commission is said to be considering a loan of around € 250 million as part of a € 780 million project to complete the second Canadian designed reactor at Cernavoda.